This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Collaborative, Adaptive-Based Approach to Informal E-Learning Technology Design




Adams, Candice

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Computer Science and Software Engineering


Significant innovations in learning technologies are encouraging individuals, especially high school students, to seek enrichment learning opportunities that they normally are not able to take advantage of due to the limitation of traditional classroom offerings in low-income school districts. With the increase in learners seeking alternatives to traditional classroom learning and the capacity to expand access to knowledge and information through the Internet, there is a need to provide tailored learning experiences with collaboration that is usable and secure. Web-based learning environments allow courses to be customized to the learner’s current knowledge as well as allow students to connect with other students outside of their current setting to capitalize on one another resources and skills. Another aspect of learning technologies is that they provide an environment which enables users to access information at any time and stay connected as long as they desire. Web-based environments to support K–12 educational needs have rarely been fully and satisfactorily developed with specific attributes such as learning and adaptability. This work reviewed the design and implementation of various learning technologies and environments and explored adaptive-based algorithms to support the real-time presentation of user content based upon user selection. The purpose of this research was to address the need of increasing course options within informal learning environment through the development of web-based learning environments. This research produced system design guidelines for a collaborative and adaptive-based application that supports informal e-learning for K–12 students. Increasing adaptability and collaboration within web-based educational environments allow the trajectory of learning to be customized to each student so the core of the subject matter being taught can be mastered by the student. Learning is improved through this system personalization which makes it a more meaningful and enjoyable experience for the student. Based upon empirical studies of an online web-based environment called ChemiNet, it showed that learning depends on how well the student understands the concepts and are satisfied with the aesthetics of the user interface. After observing users using the ChemiNet application, it was realized that more individualized instruction is needed in order to keep each student focused on the material being taught. Individualized instruction and providing more real-like feedback occurs in a traditional classroom setting was an area survey participants felt the ChemiNet application lacked. In order to address the concerns and to achieve a more viable learning environment, investigations in adaptive computer-supported collaborate learning (CSCL) was explored. This research paradigm allowed us to identify system designs that can support collaboration and adaptability in informal e-learning environments. The primary focus was to create an environment that uses those system designs where students, ages 13–17, can informally access course information on different topics, specifically STEM, targeted towards high school students. Ultimately, supporting low-income school districts by having a secure and usable environment that allows students in their area to enroll and take enrichment courses that are not offered in the traditional face-to-face classroom environment. This research focused on online learning tools, web-based learning environments, CSCL, usability, and virtual learning environments.